Commonwealth Writers Conversation – The Untold Story: Commonwealth Shorts, A Common Story?
On 11 March, 2014, five filmmakers from around the Commonwealth, Kareem Mortimer from Bahamas, Lisa Harewood from Barbados, Jules Koostachin from Canada, Wanjiru Kairu from Kenya and Oscar Kightley from New Zealand, visited the Soho Hotel, for the London screening of Commonwealth Shorts. Chaired by journalist and broadcaster Rosie Goldsmith, the filmmakers discussed whether a common story could be found between their five distinct films.
Commonwealth Shorts was a capacity building scheme to give emerging writers/directors the opportunity to make a film which highlights issues affecting them and their communities on the theme of relationships. The initiative is a partnership between Commonwealth Writers, B3 Media and CBA Worldview. The documentary and four dramas explore migration, indigenous rights and same-sex relationships. The filmmakers were selected from hundreds of submissions from across the Commonwealth and underwent an intensive development process with the project partners to produce the films. All of the films can be viewed here.
(Photo credit: Shazad Khalid, B3 Media)
Jules was raised by her Cree speaking grandparents in Moosonee, as well as her mother in Ottawa. She is known for her social activism work in Indigenous rights and education, combining social issues with her artistic ventures. In the spring of 2008, Jules completed Screenwriting and Produce & Direct Your Own Short Film at George Brown College. Later, she successfully completed the Ryerson University Summer Film Intensive Program, where she was nominated for the Peter Gerretsen Film Awards for Best Achievement and Editing, and won the award for Screenwriting.
Jules is from Attawapiskat First Nation, currently living in Toronto where she completed graduate school at Ryerson University, awarded with the Award of Distinction for her thesis work, as well as the Masters level Ryerson Gold Medal for academic achievement in 2010. While completing her Masters, she completed her first feature documentary film, entitled Remembering Inninimowin. Soon after graduation, Jules was one of six women selected across Canada for the Women in the Directors Chair program at the Banff Centre. Her film script Broken Angel, won Best Fresh Voice at the Female Eye Film Festival.
Jules is the Aboriginal and Indigenous Program Director for the Female Eye Film Festival in Canada, which places a spotlight on debut, emerging and established Canadian and International Indigenous film makers. Her company, VisJuelles Productions, was incorporated in September of 2010, where she has many projects in development.
Her short film, ‘PLACEnta’, premiered at Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol, UK, as part of a Commonwealth Writers event.
Over the past five years he has won over 25 awards for his previous three film projects. Kareem has made short music documentaries for the syndicated show Hip Hop Nation: Notes from the Underground; and has written and directed the short film Float that has won 5 festival awards and distribution in North America, Germany and Austria. Float received a US Broadcast premiere on LOGO. Moving Pictures Magazine crowned Float as one of five short films to look out for and Kareem a writer/director to watch.
Subsequently, he has directed the documentary I Am Not A Dummy and a debut feature film Children Of God. Children of God has won 18 awards, distributed in 24 territories, a theatrical release in the US and currently airing on SHOWTIME. Children of God was also named by BET as one of the top ten movies of the year and one of the top features to watch by The Independent Magazine.
His short film, ‘Passage’, premiered at Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol, UK, as part of a Commonwealth Writers event.
Lisa is a lifelong and passionate film fan from the island of Barbados. After a working life spent mostly in the fields of advertising, marketing and development communication, she decided to pursue her long-held ambition of making a film, joining writer/director Russell Watson’s micro-budget feature project, A Hand Full of Dirt, as Producer.
On its release in 2011, the film was nominated for Best First Feature Narrative Director at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and won the Audience Award at the Reelworld Film Festival in Toronto. That year Lisa was also selected to participate in an incubator programme in Toronto for emerging Caribbean film producers and in 2012 she was tipped as one of Reelworld’s Emerging 20 filmmakers.
AUNTIE is Lisa’s debut effort as a writer and director and came about as a result of a last-minute decision to enter the Commonwealth Writers’ short film competition. The short explores her interest in the effect of migration on those who leave their home countries and those who are left behind. These are issues she is exploring in-depth with a feature length narrative project currently in development. Also on her slate is a feature length documentary and she is attached as a producer to Canadian director Dawn Wilkinson’s next feature project.
Lisa’s production company, Gate House Media, is dedicated to making work that accurately reflects the Caribbean experience and to broadening access for the Caribbean Diaspora to their own stories.
Her short film, ‘Auntie’, premiered at Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol, UK, as part of a Commonwealth Writers event.
Wanjiru Kairu is a Kenyan filmmaker interested in creating captivating films that promote dialogue on social issues. An alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2006 and the Maisha Film Lab 2007, Wanjiru’s short films have been official selections at festivals such as the Pan African Film Festival, Durban International Film Festival, ION Film Festival, and the New York African Film Festival among numerous others. Wanjiru currently writes and directs for different TV drama series and is also adapting Martin Njaga’s short novel, “The Brethren of Ng’ondu” into a feature.
Her Commonwealth Short ‘New Year’s Eve’ premiered at Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol, UK, as part of a Commonwealth Writers event.
Oscar is a Samoan born writer/actor and broadcaster who grew up in New Zealand and who’s helped create critically acclaimed award-winning work for the stage, small and big screens.
In the 1990s he helped found Pacific Underground, a theatre company that was integral in developing Pasifika themed stories that raised the profile of that community and the issues facing them for New Zealand audiences.
Later that decade he and his friends formed the Naked Samoans theatre group who continued that work while adding outrageous comedy into the mix. Their onstage was the genesis for a couple of projects that took them from the stage to the screen.
First bro’Town, the animated prime time comedy series that was conceived by colleague Elizabeth Mitchell and produced by her company Firehorse Films. The series ran for 5 years until 2009 and earned a massive following in New Zealand as well as loyal audiences when it screened in Australia, the south Pacific, South America and Russia.
And then the hit movie Sione’s Wedding which broke domestic box office records on its release in 2006. The follow up sequel released in 2012 enjoyed similar success.
In 2009 he was made a New Zealand Arts Foundation Arts Laureate. He was given a medal from the Queen in recognition of services to New Zealand theatre and television.